January 15, 2009 in Washington Voices

E.V. hopes third try will pass school bond

By The Spokesman-Review
 
J. Bart Rayniak photo

Paint blisters on the bricks inside the new gymnasium at Mountain View Middle School that was built in 1994. Water seeps from the roof onto the bricks and leaks through the seams because it wasn’t sealed properly. The walls get painted several times a year. “We’ve been piece mealing the school back together,” said Principal Jim McAdam. “They (custodial staff) do a phenominal job.”
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

On the Feb. 3 ballot

Construction bond: $34.5 million bond to extensively remodel Mountain View and East Valley Middle schools and renovate all elementary schools. The state will provide $19.3 million in matching funds. The estimated cost is 89 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value. Money may only be used for construction. Requires 60 percent approval to pass.

Replacement maintenance and operations levy: Pays for extracurricular activities, sports, textbooks, school nurse, transportation and more. It provides 19 percent of the district’s annual budget. The three-year levy will cost $3.15 per $1,000 in assessed home value each year. Money may only be used for day-to-day operations. Requires 50 percent approval to pass.

East Valley is hoping the third time is the charm as the school district makes a third attempt to pass a construction bond.

The bond will be on the Feb. 3 ballot along with the district’s replacement maintenance and operations levy. Ballots are being mailed this week.

The district made two attempts to pass the bond last year, but failed both times with about 55 percent approval. Bonds require a supermajority (60 percent) approval to pass. The $34.5 million bond has been changed slightly and the estimated cost to taxpayers has dropped significantly thanks to increased home values in the area.

“It spreads the dollars into every elementary school,” said Superintendent John Glenewinkel.

The estimated cost is 89 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value. The district is eligible for $19.3 million in matching money from the state. The bond is replacing a previous bond that has expired.

Mountain View and East Valley middle schools will still get remodeled under the new bond, but planned work at Otis Orchards Elementary will be cut back. The plan calls for roof replacement, heating and ventilation upgrades, new plumbing and electrical upgrades. Every school except the high school is slated for improvement. Some money from the bond will still be allocated for technology, but not as much as in the previous bond proposals. More money will be funneled into repairs and remodeling instead.

None of the planned work will be fancy, said school board President Kerri Lunstroth. “This is so barebones as far as what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re doing what needs to be done.”

The district did a survey of East Valley voters in November and found support for the new plan, Glenewinkel said. “Voters said they would favor this type of proposal,” he said.

The district has had ongoing problems with leaky roofs at several schools for years. Water has been known to stream from light fixtures by the bucketful at East Valley Middle School. If anything the problem got worse after the record snowfall. Mountain View Middle School Principal Jim McAdam arrived at school on Dec. 29 to check on the building and found six new leaks. When school nurse Kelly Richard sits at her desk, she can look up and see the sky.

The hole in the roof is about the size of two shoeboxes. It appears that wind pushed the snow up under the air vent and water broke through the ceiling, McAdam said. “When it warmed up it just whooshed right through,” he said. The leak also damaged the cabinet that houses medications, but luckily none of the medicine was damaged.

“If any critter jumps down there and on my back, you’ll hear it,” Richard said as she gazed up at the opening.

The school has also been plagued by heating problems. Before Christmas break, the furnace started pumping 104-degree air into the orchestra room after a regulator got stuck. Temperatures in classrooms along the east side of the school plunged to nearly freezing because of vents that go directly into each classroom from the outside. “We actually weren’t able to use those classrooms,” said Glenewinkel. “It was too cold to put kids in there.”

The district has been making repairs as it can, but the money comes out of the general fund and reduces the amount available to spend on education. The district recently had to purchase a new boiler at East Farms Elementary when the old one failed. A new boiler can cost between $60,000 and $80,000, Glenewinkel said.

If the bond passes, the district will form a citizen’s committee to advise the school board on the remodeling projects. “We want them to monitor the whole bond process,” Glenewinkel said. “We certainly hope the voters are going to see the value of the bond issue.”

Also on the February ballot is East Valley’s replacement maintenance and operations levy. The three-year levy, which will replace a levy that is expiring, will cost an estimated $3.15 per $1,000 in assessed home value per year. The levy will raise $8.5 million in 2010, $9.1 million in 2011 and $9.8 million in 2012. A levy requires only a simple majority to pass.

Levy money pays for items the state does not fully fund, like special education and transportation, as well as things the state doesn’t fund at all, such as extra curricular activities and textbooks. The money also pays for high school AP classes, school nurses and sports. “Without the levy, there would not be enough money there to operate the program,” Glenewinkel said of the district’s sports teams. “The levy pays for the district to have the type of schools the community wants. Basically it just has to pass.”

Levy money cannot be used for construction and bond money cannot be used for day-to-day operations. The levy accounts for 19 percent of the district’s annual budget.

Glenewinkel said he’s worried about having both issues on the ballot now, but said the district has no choice. The amounts of both ballot issues were carefully calculated so that taxpayers would not pay more than they are paying now for the expiring bond and levy. “We’re absolutely worried about the state of the economy,” he said. “That’s why we’ve worked extremely hard to have a neutral impact on the current tax rate.”

Nina Culver can be reached at 927-2158 or via e-mail at ninac@spokesman.com.


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